New Year Day Walk 

Due to bad weather, we had only a small party to start 2014 with a ramble in the Chilterns. I understand that three members set off from Berkamstead and had a nice lunch in a pub at Little Gaddesden.


South Downs YHA - 1/2 February

Southdowns YHA is a splendid new hostel converted from a farmhouse and adjacent farm buildings. It is located about halfway between Lewes and Newhaven and is right on the south downs way long distance footpath.The first picture below shows us gathered outside the building that houses the hostel resturant on the ground floor and a conference/classroom above, the second picture shows the car parking/courtyard area, the main dormitories and the communal rooms are in a converted farmhouse behind the camera in this view. Its good to see that although so many hostels have closed in recent years there are a few new ones opening.

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Eight HSC members gathered at the hostel on Saturday morning.  The hostel is just a few hundred yards from a halt on the Lewes to Newhaven railway line. Three of our party travelled by train and were delayed while the rail company looked for the guard for their train. Since it was a bit late in the morning by the time we set off, we headed straight for the nearest pub at Rodmell, about one mile from the hostel. After lunch we continued to the west, stopping to look at the churche at Iford. The weather had been rather variable throughout the day and by mid afternoon we were being blasted by a strong wind and hailstones. To minimise our misery we took a shortened route back to the hostel.  Picture below shows three of our party braving the elements on the Saturday afternoon.

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That evening we gathered in the members kitchen and Gerald and Essin combined efforts to produce us a nice evening meal of lamb stew with a Turkish slant. Josephine rounded this off with a home made cake, thanks due to all our cooks.A few of us then spent an hour or so looking over a photo album of HSC photographs dating back to the '60s and before.

We had much better weather for our Sunday walk. We were joined on Sunday morning by Liz Baker who is known to the HSC since she organises the Cobnor sailing weeks that are usually attended by a few HSC members. We walked to the swingbridge that is about half a mile from the hostel then we took the footpath following the west bank of the river Ouse downstream to the port of Newhaven for lunch. We then crossed the river bridge in Newhaven and followed footpaths up onto the ridge of the South Downs to join the South Downs way long distance footpath that we followed in a westerly direction back to the hostel.

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 Swing bridge over the river Ouse near South Downs YHA - all the rain we are having lately made for a fast current

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Modern architecture on the east bank of the Ouse close to Newhaven - it's a rubbish incinerator

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Returning to the hostel along the South Downs way.  In the distance the river Ouse winds towards Lewes, there is much flooded land in the valley.


Easter at Dolgellau YHA

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Kings (Dolgellau) YHA

A party of ten HSC members spent a very pleasant Easter break at Kings YHA near Dolgellau at the southern end of Snowdonia in Wales. This hostel consists of three stone cottages nestling in the bottom of a wooded valley, picture above. We had booked indoor beds but the hostel does also offer a pleasant campsite alongside the stream that runs down the valley.

Easter Saturday was a clear sunney day so it made sense for those who wished to do so to take the opporunity to ascend Cadair Idris, the peak that lies about three miles to the south of the hostel. However, not all of our party wished to do this, so five of us climbed the mountain while the others visited Carnarfon, travelling part of the way on the steam hauled 'heritage' railway from Porth Madog. Josephine and myself joined the group taking the high level walk, setting off from the hostel and heading south towards Cadair Idris.

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A mile or so out from the hostel, with Cadair Idris straight ahead

Although Cadair Idris is the second highest mountain in England and Wales the path up from the hostel is a steady climb with mostly moderate gradients and no requirement for anything that could really be described as rock scrambling. The steepest stretch is the last bit up to the summit, as in the picture below. We ate our sandwiches close by the cairn at the top, in company with perhaps a couple of dozen other walkers.

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 Approaching the summit

We had fine views from the summit, the picture below is looking north west to the Barmouth estuary and beyond, the blue sea just visible in the top left of the picture.

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View NW from the summit

I don't think any of us had given much thought to a route down from the mountain, we just wandered off in the direction most of the other walkers seemed to be taking. It was only after we had walked a couple of miles that Mark S. suggested that perhaps we were not following a particularly direct route back to the hostel.  Cadair Idris is the highest point of a ridge that extends about four miles and we were walking along the top of this ridge in a direction that was taking us ever further from the hostel. Mark suggested that perhaps we should retrace our steps to the summit then see if we could find the 'Fox's path' that drops down the steep north side of the ridge, passing close by the lake in the picture above, but the rest of us were not keen on that idea - re-tracing ones steps is rarely appealing. Instead we had a long but pleasant walk following the gradually descending ridge to the east, then returning westwards to the hostel along lower level footpaths and farm tracks. Looking at descriptions on the internet, I think the steep Fox's path could have been a more exciting route, but perhaps excitement was not what we were seeking.

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The Cadair Idris ridge

The picture above was taken on our way back to the hostel, looking north to the steep side of the Cadair Idris ridge.

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Tollbridge near the head of the Barmouth estuary - the signals are a reminder that there was a railway here.

On Easter Sunday all ten of our party walked together on a lower level route from the hostel into Dolgellau and back. The route out to Dolgellau took us through small fields and woods, it was difficult to find the footpaths at times, even with the help of the gps and ordnance survey maps on Mark's phone. We did find a nice tea shop for a leasurely luch in Dolgellau. After lunch we left Dollgellau taking the footpath that has been made along the disused railway that once linked Dolgellau to the coastal railway and Barmouth. This was easy walking - most trains don't climb steep hills. We made an afternoon teastop at the pub near the toll bridge accross the river near the head of the Barmouth estuary before the final uphill stretch up from the estuary to the hostel. 

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A group photo taken outside the hostel - Photo by Richard who is not in the picture

Fitting out club boat Merganser - 27 April 

Report from Mark S.

Clem, Frank, Gerald and Mark S picked up Merganser from her winter berth at Clem's place and launched her at Paglesham on Sunday.

We decided to postpone the Fitting Out Supper to a date when hopefully more members will be able to attend but we did manage a "fitting out lunch" at the Plough and Sail - even sitting outside in some unexpected sunshine.

Thanks to Richard for renovating the floorboards - now a very pretty blue colour and also for doing a very impressive job cleaning the green slime from the inside of the hull. Merganser also now has a new set of shrouds made up by a chandlers near Leicester Square! Only little job left is some minor repairs to the mainsail cover.

I went to Paglesham today and refitted the rowlocks which had become very loose. Clem was working on his Dauntless and so we went for a short trial sail up Paglesham Pool before the tide went out. In the process we noticed that one of Wo-boat's rowlocks was missing which means that Wo-Boat is unusable till this has been fixed - however Clem has kindly allowed use of his dinghy in the meantime.


Walking weekend in Devon - 2 to 5 May

Eight HSC members spent spring bank holiday weekend at John and Josephine's house at Wembury in south west Devon. The first three visitors arrived on Friday evening, the others the following morning. Mark T. made an amazingly early start from Hertfordshire in the early hours of Saturday morning, arriving in time for breakfast at Wembury.


 We started our Saturday ramble from the car park at the confluence of the River Plym and the River Meavy, this being about half an hour drive north from Wembury.  We noticed massive stone structures to one side of the car park and guessed there might be some industrial history behind that  An internet search back home revealed that these structures are the remains of a china clay drying plant, even though the nearest point of extraction of china clay was two miles away - for more information see this web page that includes an article by Steve Roberts of Plymouth Minerals and Mining Club. The text of the same article is also available from this web page.  

Leaving the car park, we walked down the lane to join the footpath /cycle track that has been adapted from the disused South Devon and Tavistock railway. The South Devon and Tavistock railway was opened in 1859 and closed in 1962. At one time it was part of a railway route from Exeter to Plymouth via Crediton, Oakhampton, Lidford and Tavistock.  The line was built to a broad gauge (7foot and a quarter inch) and ended as a standard gauge line but for part of its history it was a mixed gauge line having a third rail so that it could also carry both broard and standard gauge trains - see this Wikipedia link for further history. Interestingly there have been proposals to re-open this rail route from Exeter to Plymouth to provide an alternative to the only current rail link via Dawlish, this idea having attracted new attention following the storm damage to the line at Dawlish earlier this year .

 We followed the track along the old railway line to Clearbrook then footpaths on to Yelverton for lunch. As we approached Yelverton from the south we encountered further interesting historical remains - Drake's Leat, the Devonport Leat and the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway which are all in close proximity in this area.  Drake's Leat is a remarkable artificial waterway built in Elizabethan times to carry drinking water from the River Meavy 18.5 miles to a reservoir in Plymouth, the construction was under the guidance of Sir Francis Drake. The photo below shows Drakes Leat at the point where we crossed it. This part of the leat is in good condition although it no longer carries water. 

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Drake's Leat near Yelverton

Devonport Leat, to the west of Drake's Leat, was built in the 18th centuary to carry water to the area of Devonport Docks. Part of this leat is still in use, feeding water to Burrator Reservoir. The Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway, which in this area runs between the two leats, is an eary horse drawn railway, or tramway, opened in 1823 for the primary purpose of carrying granite from Dartmoor quarries to Plymouth. We walked along a section  of this tramway, noting the granite sleepers which once supported short lengths of cast iron rail butt jointed together. In places there would have been passing points, this was clear from the forked junctions in the rows of sleepers.

After lunch we went to look at the Paperweight Museum in Yelverton, we were curious since this sounded like an unusual kind of musem. However, although road signs still direct to this museum, we discovered that it closed in 2013.

From Yelverton we walked back to our cars, mainly following riverside footpaths along the River Meavy. We did also go a little way up the valley of the Plym above the confluence with the Meavy, so as to see the Dewerstone. This is a rocky outcrop above the north side of the Plym and is popular with rock climbers, we stopped awhile and watched a group of climbers. The stone paved foot path we followed to reach the top of the Dewerstone was originally built to transfer granite from quarries along the side of the river valley - this part of Devon is rich with industrial archaeology. 

After returning to the car park a few of us walked another mile or more to view a tunnel on the South Devon and Dartmoor railway, this tunnel now carrying the cycle track/footpath that follows the bed of the old railway. Its quite an impressive tunnel and since it follows a curve you can't see the 'light at the end of the tunnel' once you are some way into it. The tunnel is lit, presumably on a 24/7 basis; without lighting it could be quite dangerous since walkers share it with cyclists some of whom rush through at speed.

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Tunnel on the Plymouth and Dartmoor railway - inspecting one of the cast iron Sustrans cycle route signs erected at the turn of the 2000 milenium.

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 After the walk - high tea back at Wembury


Our Sunday ramble was from Wembury by inland footpaths to Bovisand on the east side of Plymouth sound then back to Wembury along the coast path from Bovisand. It was a lovely sunney day and one of our party actually went for a short swim from a beach along the coast path. We lunched at Bovisand beach cafe and after lunch we took a look at some of the forts of the 'Staddon Line' that was built in the the 19th Centuary to defend Plymouth against a possible French seaborne or landborne attack. Just north of Bovisand the coast path crosses a bridge over a massive ditch defended by gun positions, this ditch was built to prevent an enemy moving north along the coast line. 

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 Ice creams outside Bovisand cafe - Bovisand fort, part of the Staddon Line, is on the promontary behind

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 Corn Marigolds

Returning along the coast path to Wembury we passed a field full of bright yellow flowers. They are corn marigolds, I have an idea that they may have been planted to provide a habitat for cirl bunting.

Bank holiday Monday:

At least one of our party had expressed a wish to experience a real Dartmoor walk, complete with drizzle, mist, bogs etc.  So on monday we attempted to fullfil this wish whilst still allowing time for people to drive home that evening, some of them as far as London. Mark S. turned to the internet to find a suitable route, starting from a car park at Lane End, a few miles along lanes from Mary Tavy on the north west side of Dartmoor, so a good starting point for a real Dartmoor walk.

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 Following the leat

Walking east from our cars, we came to a leat, our third leat this weekend - see above. Unlike our previous leats, this one is still very much in use and carries a rapid flow of water.  This leat was built about 200 years ago to supply a water wheel for the Wheal Friendship copper mines complex, then in the 1930's it was utilised to convey water to a hydro electric power station that was at one time the largest hydro electric power station in England. See these links for more details of the interesting history:  Water power at Wheal Friendship  and South West Water leaflet about Mary Tavy Power Station.

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River Tavy

We followed the leat to the point where it diverges from the River Tavy, then followed a rough path along the side of the river itself. It is a pretty river tumbling down a steep sided valley in a series of rapids but the walk was quite hard going, with some scrambling to get over boulders. In due course we turned up a small tributory stream then headed up onto the high moor above the river, making our way to the rocky outcrop of Hare Tor. We were now in scenary typical of the high land of Dartmoor, bleak and featurless apart from the tors punctuating the skyline. We stopped for a break at the summit of Hare Tor then descended back to our cars via Ger Tor.

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 Dartmoor scenary - on the way to Hare Tor

 We all enjoyed a cream tea in a tea room at Lydford before making our various ways home.